Park Life

Hello there! It’s been a while since I last updated, hm? Well I finally took the time to sit down and write, here’s what’s come of it.

While I like to think it’s my generally sunny disposition is responsible for the recent bouts of clear sky, mid-60s weather that’s hit London, I’m just as surprised as the British general public is by the abnormal doses of Vitamin D we’ve been blessed with. And when the sun comes out in London, so do the people. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it is so nice to see. In an over-packed city with flats stacked to the sky in a fight against a housing shortage, it’s nice to see that London still preserves patches of Mother Nature here and there (okay, Hyde Park isn’t exactly a patch, but you get my drift). Today is another one of those days that the sun has blessed us with an appearance, so after doing a little research, I took the hour-long trek to Hackney in search of London Fields. A space that is more of a corner garden in comparison to the monstrosity that is Hyde Park, it’s hard to walk a few feet without a having to weave around a group of people stretched out in the sun.

It’s a different kind of London over here, with Cockney accents and more color than you’ll ever see in Kensington, and so far I prefer it here. I work not too far from here, just a train stop away in Islington, and it’s a nice mix of affluence and “the rest,” AKA anyone who can only afford their groceries from Sainsbury’s. It’s a pleasant reminder that not all of London is posh (snobby) and in a world of its own. 

As for this particular park, there is a pair of men selling seaweed ice pops (which I’m struggling to understand the appeal of), and lots of PDA (which I will never, EVER, understand the appeal of). But in addition to the things that cause me to roll my eyes (sorry, Mom), there are also things that make me smile:  parents kicking around with their kids, friendly dogs, and cute men with ice cream (hey, can you blame me?). 

There’s also a canal that runs through Hackney, which means this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to Venice. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the Madison Union, except I’m pretty sure the lake is still half-frozen back home. Memories of spending summer afternoons with Harry and a waffle cone of Babcock Butter Pecan (and then Harry throwing the rest of his cone to the ducks even though the sign distinctly says DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS) remind me of all I have to come home to. Speaking of home, I officially have less than a month left until I am stepping back onto American soil. Thinking about it is incredibly bittersweet, because while I am so ready to see friends and family back home (and cheese curds), I’m really not ready to leave this place (and this beautiful weather certainly isn’t helping). As cheesy and wistful as it sounds, I wish every day that all of you were here with me, going on adventures and learning to call London “home” as I have.

Back before I even hopped on my first plane here, I talked about my reservations and fears I had about leaving home. Well now I’m experiencing the same feelings about leaving London. I worry about how much I’ll miss this place and when I’ll have the opportunity to come back. Harry, I laughed when you told me I would want to stay in London and never come home, but I guess I should’ve listened better. There is so much of London to see, and I’ve learned today that I’ve merely skimmed the surface. Sure, Kensington is great, but it’s a very tiny part of one of the largest cities in the world. And while it would cost me an arm and a leg and a kidney (black market, anyone?) to live here, I truly believe it would be worth it. London isn’t perfect, no place is, but I like it here. I really, really like it here. I guess I’ve fully embodied the cliche of a small town girl falling in love with a big city, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love a bit of cliche in my life.

Your ever present cliche of a person,

Morgan

Sleepless in Scotland

Up until this point, I have been incredibly fortunate in my life to never had to worry about finding a place to sleep at night. Whether it be at home, at a friend’s or family member’s, at a hotel or hostel, or at my dorm room, I have always had a place to stay and a bed or couch to crash on. For the first time in my life last night, I had to ask myself where I would be sleeping.

To give you a better idea of what got me into the situation, here’s some background info:  Shira and I had a bus that left Saturday night from Edinburgh and would arrive in London around 6:30 AM. Due to a mishap on our end, one of our tickets was not for the correct date. To make matters worse, there were not extra seats on the bus, and it was the last bus leaving for London that night. Now normally, it would just be a matter of booking a hostel/hotel for a night and taking the next bus out of the country the next morning. Except, did I mention it’s rugby weekend? Rugby weekend is one of the (if not the) biggest weekend in Scotland, as well as Italy, Wales, England, France, and Ireland. This means that every single place was full. Needless to say, panic had already begun to set in before this point, but I had to remind myself multiple times to take deep breaths and try and think rationally (luckily Shira did most of that). 

After figuring things out, and with the lovely help of one of the bus station workers as well as a fellow female passenger, we were able to figure out a plan. We booked the next bus which will depart at 9:45 AM. There was still the hitch of where to stay. The bus and train stations close from 12:30 AM to 4 AM, so we didn’t have those as options. Again with help, we got a bus to the airport where we could crash for a few hours. At this point, I though everything was good.

However, did you know that airport security does its rounds to make sure people aren’t just using the building as a place to stay? Well, they do. Around one o’clock in the morning or so (time has somewhat ceased to exist these last twenty-four hours), a woman came around checking for ID and plane tickets. Plane tickets we did not have. The panic started up again when she came towards us, but by the magic of running on adrenaline, I was able to think quickly and tell the woman what had happened to us and how the bus company “recommended” we stay here for the hours they are closed (staying at the airport was actually Shira’s idea but the employee at the bus station said that was a good idea so I just kinda went with it). While she wasn’t too keen on letting us stay, she did allow us to on the basis that it was a one time thing and that we would actually be heading back to London in the morning. That was the second and luckily the last time I had to worry about where I would be spending my evening.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t picture myself sitting on the sidewalk for a few hours, trying to stay safe and warm. Looking back on it, I was probably being overdramatic, but after the series of (unfortunate) events we had endured that day, I didn’t exactly have complete rational control over my thoughts. It was scary and stressful and it made me think. During my time spent overseas, I’ve passed by a lot of homeless people. In London, Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh, they’re there sitting on the pavement, bundled up, looking for spare change. Now I will say that I’m always leery to give them money because I don’t know where it’s going, and I don’t think I could ever be brave enough to open my home to someone, but maybe some day that’ll change. Maybe some day, and it may be a pipe dream, we won’t see people on the streets. 

I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to go through that every night, wondering where you’re going to stay, if you’ll have a place to sleep or even just a place to stay warm. I don’t know how they got to be where they are, but I do know that no one deserves to spend the night without a place to stay. 

On a lighter note, spending a night in an airport, believe it or not, is not my idea of fun. Now no offense to Edinburgh airport, because it is lovely, but it’s not exactly ideal. I don’t think one ever actually “sleeps” in an airport, unless you’re the French men that spent the night snoring and effectively keeping me awake. I think most people just lull in and out of a light nap, constantly worrying about their stuff getting stolen or falling off the benches they’ve managed to balance themselves on. Looking back on it, I really should’ve made a video or taken a photo every hour to document how we were feeling, but I didn’t. I did read a lot, and talk to my mom for a whole hour (thanks Mom!), and used as much of the 2 free hours of free wi-fi that I was provided (put that down in the “needs to be improved” category, Edinburgh). The time went surprisingly fast, and our bus is about to board and after the last ten hours or so I can honestly say I’ve never been happier to get on a nine hour bus ride. Also, London is looking just peachy right now, and I’ve begun to feel homesick for it, but that’s probably just the sleep deprivation talking.

It was one of the most interesting, stressful, and crazy nights of my life, but I’m not complaining. I’m safe and I’m going home to a warm bed that I know will be there for me for the rest of the semester. Sometimes we all just need a little perspective.

Oh Ireland, where do I start? I’ve only spent two days here and I never want to leave (sorry, London). Yes, I know I’m in the honeymoon stage, but I’m not staying long enough to be pushed out of that stage, and I am perfectly okay with being blissfully naive. Although I will say, I’m not, and never will be, a fan of the smoking. While I enjoyed my first day in Dublin, it paled in comparison to our travels through Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. As you may have seen by my mass spamming of photos on Facebook, I have fallen in love with the Irish countryside. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a city-slicker, but after yesterday, I think I could actually see myself living a quiet life by the sea, surrounded by family of course. 

I’m no sorry to say that the grand architecture of the cities are slightly less dazzling than the shades of green and blue only Mother Nature can create, which brings me to my next point. After seeing very possibly the most beautiful thing in my life, I wonder how there are people out there who don’t believe in anything. Science can do and does a lot of spectacular things, but there’s a certain beauty in the world that simply can’t be replicated. I know why the sky is blue (thanks Mr. Hagstrom), and why the grass is green, but the colors of the sea on this side of the Atlantic are beyond words. Maybe I’m just some crazy optimist, but I like to think that places like the Cliffs are gifts, not just land formations.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, 2014 has made me a bit of a risk taker. Let me tell you, sitting on the Cliffs of Moher and dangling my feet off the edge was a risk. And it was the most exhilarating, wonderful, and mind shattering moments of my life. For someone who has never lived by the ocean, I am in love with it. Whether it be the Pacific or the Atlantic, I have always been taken with the sea, it leaves me speechless. So being one drop from it, one very, very, very long drop, was… I don’t know if I can properly describe it. I remember just sitting there, laughing to myself because I was so awestruck, I couldn’t believe where I was. The sun was out, the wind was whipping, and the sea and sky were the most striking shades of blue. If I could live nearby, I would walk the Cliffs every morning and every night. I would get up to watch the sun rise from the waves and I would lay on my back to watch the stars come out.

I might be putting Ireland, and especially the Cliffs, on a very high pedestal, but I truly believe that even if you’re not a nature-lover, you will fall in love with it here. Let me tell you, backpacking through a country has never been so appealing up until now, and I’m already trying to figure out a way to come back. Maybe I’m more of an outdoorsy person than I thought (sorry internet, sorry Tumblr). 

Aside from the breathtaking countryside Ireland has to offer, there is of course, Dublin. We arrived here around two p.m. today and had a little fun getting lost both on our way to our hostel and to Dublin Castle. Upon arriving to our hostel, we had the extreme luck of cashing in on a private room! Basically, all the 6-bed rooms were full, so we got a room to ourselves, no extra charge. Now it’s not as if I were averse to the hostel life, if anything I was intrigued by it. Our first hostel experience was just fine (except for waking up our roommates at midnight but who is actually sound asleep at midnight!?), so I was almost afraid that we “peaked early,” so to speak. Needless to say, I am not complaining about having a room to ourselves.

 Well, we’ve got two more days in Dublin, and I honestly cannot wait. Two blog posts in such a short amount of time, I guess I’m feeling chatty!

Your newfound backpacking-enthusiast,

Morgan

February in Review

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve updated, or at least that’s how it’s felt. I’ve written a few things, but to be honest, I didn’t really feel like sharing them. While I’m being completely honest, February was rough. I experienced my first case of home sickness when I found out Lilah was sick, and it only intensified when I learned she was put down less than a week later. It may have been silly, but I prayed every night the week before that she would find the strength to hold on so I could see her one last time. Obviously, the cancer became too strong, and even my little fighter couldn’t beat time. I think the worst part was (and still is) that I never got to say goodbye. When I left for London, I gave her a scratch behind the ears and a kiss on the forehead, and I had every intention of seeing her again. I lost more than a dog in February, I lost the closes thing I’ve ever had to a sibling or child. My heart was shattered and my body was drained of energy. But London doesn’t allow to stay holed up inside, and I still had classes to attend.

While that was undoubtedly the lowest point of my February, visiting the Harry Potter set was definitely the peak. Being a lifelong “Potterhead,” I had a hard time containing my excitement (and my almost tears) on the bus ride. THe tour was amazing, and having Tom Felton as my audio guide definitely had me swooning. It was surreal to see the sets and props, and of course the costumes and wigs (I mean that TOUCHED Alan Rickman!!). It was and probably always will be hard to believe that the people I grew up watching and wanting to be just like walked those studios and called it a home away from home.

There were multiple times I thought I was going to lose it, the most powerful moment  being when I walked into the room that holds the GINORMOUS Hogwarts model. Of course it didn’t help that Hedwig’s theme was playing softly through the speakers and I couldn’t stop thinking, “Hogwarts will always be here to welcome you home.” So, needless to say, I was getting choked up as I took picture after picture. I’m sure many of my fellow Potterheads can relate when I say that those books, and the movies, will always feel like home. Harry Potter was both my childhood and my teen years, and I hope I will get the chance to pass my love for the series down to my kids. I’ve already seen the second generation of Potterheads, many of them were present the day I took the tour (I even saw a kid in full Harry garb, robe and all. God Bless).

Aside from the tour itself, one of my favorite parts was seeing literally people from all walks of life enjoying and getting emotional over everything there was to see. It shows both the power of these books and the power of storytelling. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, you’ve done so much more for us than just giving us a good read.

Of course there were other things that happened in February:  I bought myself my first drink (a cider), I went to London Fashion Weekend, and I got to see Louis Tomlinson play football (three words:  lots of screaming). The cider was delicious, and I’m sad to say that I (probably) won’t be able to find it when I get home. Maybe I should stay in London… Oh wait I still need to finish my degree. Darn you, priorities! Besides, I don’t think staying in London for the alcohol is the best motive, although I can probably come up with plenty more (Still waiting for Harry styles to fall in love with me, really).

London Fashion Weekend was everything posh with a slice of edgy. London came out in its Sunday best, ditching their daily black for neon, plaid, grunge, and of course, more black (I’m sure they tried calling it dark grey). We were able to shop collections we’ll never be able to afford, but for once we got to act like we could actually afford it. At the catwalk show, we saw the trends for spring:  metallics, lace, sporty, and florals (I can just hear Miranda now… “Groundbreaking”). WHile I wouldn’t wear everything that came down the runway (if I could pull off lace see-through trousers, I totally would), it was fun to experience my first fashion show. I like to think my addiction to America’s Next Top Model qualifies me as being a bit of a fashion expert. And for those of you wondering, (*cough* MOM *cough*) no, I did not get “discovered.” Sorry Balenciaga, I don’t have time to become an international supermodel.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I attended a Doncaster Rovers football (soccer) match. Yes, it was because Louis Tomlinson was playing, but to be fair, I actually love watching football. Needless to say, (if you know anything about One Direction) there was a lot of screaming. A LOT. Don’t get me wrong, I was hardcore fangirling on the inside, bit was on the INSIDE. It was fun, despite the fact no one scored, and I did make friends with the mom next to me that was just as confused by the excessive screaming as I was.

For a short month, February definitely left an impact on me. Halfway through my study abroad experience (hard to believe, I know), I find myself wishing I had more time. But that’s what March and April are for. Shira and I are starting off the new month with a case of wanderlust (shocking, I know) and quenching it with a trip to Ireland and Scotland (there will be a blog post for that too). Our plane is about to land in Cork, (this was written last night) so I should put my journal away. Thank you again to all of you who have been here for me, whether near or far. I love you so very much. Until next time, thanks for reading.

Looking for a fresh start,

Morgan

And now for a slew of selfies I took at Harry Potter Studios…

Harry Potter Studios

Harry Potter Studios

So I went to the Harry Potter set today…

Paris: The City of Lights, Love, and Lousy Pigeons

            Well world, I think it’s safe to say I’m a bit of a jet setter. Okay, so one weekend in Paris doesn’t exactly make me Posh Spice, but as Mrs. Faust used to tell us in freshman gym class, “If you had fun, you won!” Let me tell you, I had lots of fun. While I’m still not quite able to grasp the fact that I spent a weekend in Paris, I have photographic proof of it, so that should help it all sink in. Maybe I’ve spent too much time with my head in the clouds to really be able to appreciate the wonders of the world around me, but Paris certainly took my breath away, it really is out of this world. To put it into context, there are buildings in Paris that are older than America. For those of you back home and/or friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably been spammed with my pictures of architecture, and France was no exception.

            The trip started on a packed bus, with only six of us being from the USA. Now, I talked to some of you about how I really wanted to take the Chunnel, which is the train that travels beneath the English Channel to connect the United Kingdom and France. Let me tell you, and I’m sorry because I’m about to burst peoples’ bubbles, but it’s underwhelming, almost to the point of disappointing. Some of you may have already known this, but the Chunnel is set in bedrock. Do you know what that means? When you look out the windows of the train, you don’t see water or fish rushing by, it’s pitch black because it’s just rock. I did not know this going into the trip, so while it was cool, and at points claustrophobia-inducing, to think that I was in an underwater train, for the most part I just sat on the bus, feeling slightly un-exhilarated. A bus, you ask? I thought you took a train! Yes my dear friends and family, you read that right. The slightly mind-blowing part of this trip (Paris in general is mind-blowing, but that’s to be expected), was that the bus we took drove onto the train, which then went beneath the water. So I was on a bus, in a train, underwater. It’s like transportation-inception, and yes, it was kinda cool.

            Anyways, you’re all probably wondering when I’m going to actually start talking about Paris. Well, you’re in luck, that part starts… Now. We arrived in the City of Lights at around eight a.m., and just like London, it was rainy. But that was quickly made up for when Le Arc de Triomphe came into view. Rain or shine, day or night, it is a sight for sore eyes. It was easily one of my favorite sites of the trip, beautiful enough to risk my life running across the crazy, uncontrolled roundabout that circles it (sorry family, you probably didn’t want t know this. No broken bones, I promise!). On top of that, we started our trip with a drive down Le Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Lafayette, Palais Garnier, and of course, the Eiffel Tower! Yes, it is everything you’ve imagined and more. For a while, all I could do was stare at it, craning my neck up in order to literally take it all in. Let me tell you, being a tall girl at 5’11”, there are very, very, few times when I feel small. So when I do feel small, I relish in it. It took my breath away, that feeling of being so tiny and insignificant in comparison to this structure that has stood the test of time, remaining to be an icon for the world.

            Even with that amazing feeling, I have to admit, my favorite part of the trip was visiting the Notre Dame. It’s a pretty well-known fact that I am Catholic, and I’m not saying that if you’re not Catholic you can’t appreciate the Notre Dame, but being in such a historically rich and, well, opulent cathedral, was an experience I will never forget. There’s one fact about this trip that might help me explain just how my adventure through Notre Dame affected me:  My camera was on the verge of dying by the time I stepped outside. That is how many pictures I took. The thing about the Notre Dame is that, it’s hard to explain, and for once, I’m at a loss for words. Yes, it is ridiculously opulent, I now understand why the French got in so much trouble, but at the same time, knowing how much history the place has seen, makes each step feel sacred. One of the best parts was being able to say an Our Father there. I think part of what made this so special is that England, yes, has a lot of amazing churches. But these churches are churches of England. They are not Catholic. There are some nice, old Catholic churches, but they’re not the same. They’re not held in such high esteem. France however, was predominantly Catholic for the majority of their history, and therefore have preserved their Catholic churches and relics with great respect. Not to mention I’m quite fond of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, as scary and scarring of a Disney movie as it is.

            For the duration of two days in Paris, I walked a lot, saw a heck of a lot more, and was 100% amazed 100% of the time. The Louvre was unexpectedly ginormous, and Mona Lisa’s eyes followed me around the room. If I could, I’d love to go back to the museum one day, and just spend a few days really studying all the art it has to offer because it really is huge. It also has a McDonald’s, which is apparently controversial (which is completely understandable, nobody wants anyone getting ketchup on the latest Monet), but I can’t say I’m surprised. I also ate a surprising amount of Italian food, but it was delicious and my craving for pizza has only grown. No, I didn’t try escargot, but maybe that gives me an excuse to go back again.

            Paris was amazing, it really was, but I couldn’t live there. For one thing, pigeons are everywhere and they aren’t afraid of humans (and if you know me, you know that’s a problem). I had a few more panic-induced moments than I would’ve preferred whilst I was there. Another thing is that Parisians really don’t like non-Parisians. It didn’t matter that one of my friends was fluent in French, people were still rude and snooty. While the English may be cold, they rarely treat you as if you are lesser than they are, and I prefer it that way. And when I thought the English smoke a lot (which they do), they have nothing on the French. I felt as if I were living in an ashtray, and let me tell you, it’s not the freshest of places. Overall, yes, Paris was amazing. That seems to be the only word I can think of, but it’s two a.m. here and Paris tends to leave people feeling at a loss for words. However, just like London, I wasn’t in total awe. In fact, I was quite happy to come “home,” by the end of the trip (long bus rides will do that to you).

            Oh! Before I forget, I actually got to speak some Spanish on this trip! On the way back, we were sat between some young students from Chile, and let’s just say I got to brush up on my Spanish-speaking abilities. It was so much fun, I forgot how much I love speaking the language, and considering it’s been a couple years, I did pretty well. So long for now, my fellow world citizens, thanks for giving this extensive blog post a read!

Your semi-jet setter,

Morgan

London Q&A

            Hey everyone! For all of you back home, I know classes have started and the weather hasn’t exactly been cooperative, but I hope you’re enjoying yourself and staying warm! Remember, wool socks and hot cocoa are your friends! While I’m here over in a slightly more temperate climate (it’s above freezing and I keep forgetting it’s January), my own heart has been warmed up by some lovely letters from back home! As some of you know, I love getting mail, especially letters, and it means so much to me that family and friends have taken time to write me! It’s certainly a lot cheaper than a package (darn Atlantic Ocean gets in the way and makes everything expensive).

            In your letters, I got a lot of questions, so I figured I’d answer them in a blog post instead of my normal ramblings. Here we go…

            How are classes going?

            Classes are great! They’re not too different from America, but I will say that there are some things that trip me up. For instance, professors here set word limits instead of page limits. In theory, it doesn’t seem too tricky, but if you’re me, you get caught up. Do they want exactly x-amount of words? Can it go over by a bit or be under? What’s the range? Now, I know my mom is probably going to read this, so before you say anything Mom, yes I have asked my professors so I know what to do. Another difference is how things are assigned. Assignments go like this:

            (Two weeks before it’s due):  Okay class, you have an assignment due in two weeks, instructions are online.

            That’s it. That is the only mention of the assignment, unless someone asks a question. So, in a way, it’s great because it keeps you on your toes and on top of the syllabi, but it’s also a bit stressful.

            So yes, overall, I’ve really been enjoying my classes! So many field trips, but I mean, they’re educational… For the most part.

            Do you and Megan (my roommate) have any of the same classes?

            Nope, which is kinda funny because we’re both Communication/PR majors. We are in the same class (Media in Britain), just two different sections.

            How is dorm life going?

            Dorm life is good, not too different from dorm life back at home, except I’m cooking all my own meals. So that’s definitely a learning experience, but I have to say I’m getting along just fine! Food here doesn’t contain nearly as many preservatives, so you have to eat all your fresh food fast, which makes me better about eating fruit and things like that. I’ve also been eating a lot of pasta, soup, and rice, and sometimes soup on rice (I definitely recommend it). So, I’m not quite a culinary genius yet, but I’m working on it.

            Well, those are the main questions, if I missed anything or you want to know more, please ask! I get so busy writing about the little things that I forget you guys might actually want to know the basics! 

Your rambling traveler,

Morgan